Ontario Liberals commit to invest $300M in special needs education

Ontario's Liberal government, which is headed for a spring election, is pledging to spend more than $300 million over three years to improve supports for children with special needs.

Plan includes 2000 new school staff, including education assistants, language specialists

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne listens to a question during a town hall meeting in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Ontario's Liberal government, which is headed for a spring election, is pledging to spend more than $300 million over three years to improve supports for children with special needs.

Speaking at Kimberly Junior Public School in east Toronto, Premier Kathleen Wynne and Education Minister Indira Naidoo-Harris said the money will go toward eliminating the wait list to have children with special needs assessed, and hiring 2000 new teachers and education workers.

The additional staff will include 500 educational assistants for students with exceptionally high needs and specialists such as social workers and speech pathologists.

The province is also promising to spend $140 million over three years to hire 450 guidance counsellors who fill focus specifically on students in grades seven and eight.  

The announcement comes just days before the Liberals present their final budget ahead of the June election.

Wynne has made several major funding promises over the last week, vowing to expand the government's free pharmacare program to cover seniors and to spend $2.1 billion over the next four years to rebuild Ontario's mental health system, which includes funding for 180 mental health workers in schools.

With files from CBC News